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Taking a ‘Leadership Selfie’: Advice for School Leaders

Let’s be clear: Education is not a business—at least it shouldn’t be.

Our public schools serve an important purpose—maybe the most important purpose.

But in the hyper-competitive environment in which our schools find themselves today, there is something to be gleaned from the successes—and the follies—of private industry, particularly when it comes to leadership.

As Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of 02E Brands, wrote for Inc. magazine recently, successful leaders succeed because they know their own weaknesses and adapt their approach to account for them.

It’s about looking in the mirror—or, as Scudamore calls it, “taking a leadership selfie.”

School leaders, too, can benefit from this brand of self-reflection.

Scudamore suggests leaders follow three steps to make sure they understand their weaknesses, acknowledge them, and strengthen them.

#1 Identify weaknesses
Nobody is good at everything.

While it is sometimes difficult to be self-aware, Scudamore says it is critical. That includes being able to spot your own weaknesses.

Scudamore recommends making a list of things you’re particularly good at or that you love doing and a second list that includes areas where you tend to struggle.

From there, you can start to identify the people  on your staff who can account for your weaknesses or determine whether it’s time to recruit new talent to the team. The quicker you realize where your strengths are and where you need help, the quicker you can align your resources to achieve your goals.

#2 Be open to criticism
It would be nice if people agreed with you all the time, but you also wouldn’t learn very much about how to get better.

Scudamore says you should encourage pushback from your staff. You might think you have the greatest idea in the world, but if it doesn’t pass staff scrutiny, it’s probably not as good as you thought.

The same goes for your community. Ask for their feedback. Consider their suggestions. And be prepared to justify your decisions, or, where needed, to change them.

#3 Use the feedback
Did you ever watch the sitcom Seinfeld? Remember the classic bit where Jerry tells a car rental service they’re good at taking a reservation, but not so good at holding it—you know, the most important part?

Well, same goes for feedback from your staff and community.

It’s easy to ask for feedback—be it through town halls, district surveys, or internal staff meetings. But it’s much harder to show people that you’re listening by actually putting that feedback to use.

Don’t listen for listening’s sake. Use community and staff feedback to inform your decisions, and make it clear how that feedback influenced your decision.

As a school leader, what steps do you take to recognize and address your own weaknesses? Tell us in the comments.

Want to engage your community in a conversation about leadership and decision-making in their schools? Give them a place to weigh in.